I am still not stepping foot into theaters. A part of me wonders if I ever will again. Because I have to say... I like watching movies at home far, far more than I do going to a theater. Like... frickin' MILES more.
Quentin Tarantino recently made a plea about supporting movie theaters thusly... "You have an experience with a bunch of strangers. And at that moment, once the movie gets going, once the lights are down, you become a collective.” And I'm like... yeah, but it's the other people that makes going to the theater such a shitty experience. And that was BEFORE the pandemic! People talking. People texting. People taking phone calls. People yelling at their kids. People putting their feet up on your seat or kicking it. People being assholes. THAT'S WHAT I HATE ABOUT THE THEATER. And since people now-a-days are more awful and less considerate with each passing day, I'll take a big ol' pass at paying a lot of money for a shitty experience. I have a very nice home theater system where there's nobody to ruin the movie for me. Love your movies, Quentin... but... well... sorry. I can wait 2 to 4 months to avoid being tortured.
And while I was tempted to see Shang-Chi in theaters because I wanted to see it so bad (something I am currently struggling with when it comes to Eternals and will struggle with again when it comes to Spider-Man: No Way Home), I held fast.
But I'm still supporting the movie. I bought a copy on the iTunes Store today ($20, cheap!), but will repeat-watch on Disney+ to be sure that it gets my views (besides, Disney+ is showing the IMAX-filled scenes in near-full-screen height, which is an added bonus).
And now we can watch together, yay!
My spoiler-filled type-along with my second viewing of the film is in an extended entry.
Yeah, spoilers, obviously, so don't read any further until you've seen Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
The opening battles are quite the beginning to the movie. These short segments are gorgeously shot and thrillingly realized with fantastic fight choreography and the gravitas that only an actor of Tony Leung's caliber can deliver. Thank heavens Marvel spends the time and money to get such talent for their films!
The ten rings themselves are very, very different from the comic book version. In the comics, "The Mandarin" has ten finger rings, each with a different power...
And two more I can't remember. UPDATE: Okay, it was driving me crazy that I couldn't remember what they were, so I Googled that shit...
But, then again, in the comics "The Mandarin" is a racial stereotype, so... well...
Needless to say, the fight between Wenwu and Li is magic to behold. It's poetry for heaven's sake. I have seen a lot of Chinese martial arts films, and this is about as good as it gets. Watching Li effortlessly handle Wenwu's power is everything you could want.
I mean... Fala Chen... if you look up "total package" in the dictionary, there she is.
The misdirect of leading you think that Shang-Chi is some wealthy badass with a fancy clothes and a car to match is pretty hilarious. As is the reveal when we see him as a valet working with his friend Katy (deftly played by Awkwafina, as you'd expect).
I was a fan of Simu Lu from his role in Kim's Convenience, and knew that when it came to the human part of being super-human he would absolutely nail it. Watching him in the restaurant scene onward you can see why he was cast. He excels at lulling you into thinking that "Shaun" is just this normal guy. Which makes his reveal as Shang-Chi all the more effective.
And this is why movies like this are such a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe... you're not going to get this slice of life for Chinese Americans in a Spider-Man movie (I larb you!). It's something NEW and different for a change!
The bus fight. Well, yeah. This is why you tuned in to the movie, right? Kickass martial arts fights as a part of the world Marvel is building. It's a thrilling introduction to the character and has humorous moments that feel very much in the spirit of Jackie Chan, which is likely what they were going for, given Jackie's popularity in the USA.
Boy. Razor Fist sure was wonderfully realized for the movie! His sword arm is the lightsaber of the MCU! In the comics he has both arms as swords, which seems a bit silly. How does he get dressed or =shudder= go to the bathroom?
The guy filming the bus fight looked familiar. So I Googled him. Turns out he was the guy telling Spider-Man to do a backflip in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It's the little connections like this. Though what the guy was doing in San Francisco when he's a New Yorker is a mystery.
The backstory for Shang-Chi is woven into the movie as best they can... but it's still reading as clutzy exposition. It's a way of having an origin movie without feeling like it's an origin movie.
I've never been to Macau. I've always wanted to go to Macau. The scenes we get on the way to Xialing's fight club just make me want to visit "The Vegas of Asia" even more.
I suppose it was impossible for this movie to not include Ronny Chieng, and here he is.
I found out after my first viewing that "Helen" in one of the "low level fights" was one of the Black Widows that escaped at the end of Black Widow.
And then there's Wong. The character is so phenomenal that they should just put Wong in everything. I cannot wait for him to come back in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness. Though... doesn't it seem very much not Wong to be appearing in an underground fight club in Macau? Why?
Emil Blonsky! The Abomination! We haven't seen him since The Incredible Hulk! And he's mutated to look a little closer to the comic book version from the blobby character he used to be. Which is a good thing. The Abomination appearing in Shang-Chi was the worst-kept-secret about the film. Interesting to note... Tim Roth apparently contributed to making the guest appearance happen (he played the character in the Hulk movie). Apparently he's going to pop up in the She-Hulk series next!
Meng'er Zhang (Xialing) is a mystery to me. I recognize her from nothing. So I took a look at IMDB and found that, yep, this is her first role. How the heck did they even find her? She's pretty great throughout as Xu Xialing, so good on Marvel for discovering a new talent, I guess.
Awkwafina is Awkwafina in everything she does. I mean, yeah, that's why you hire her... but she can never disappear into a character, which is a problem. Or maybe it isn't? Next up? She's voicing Scuttle the Crab in the live-action The Little Mermaid movie.
And now we get to the scaffolding fight scene, which is straight out of a dozen martial arts movies (half of them by Jackie Chan!). Nevertheless, it's a pretty thrilling sequence. And a terrifying one for somebody like me who's not a fan of heights.
Finding out that all the drama up to this point was courtesy of Wengwu is pretty tough to believe. The whole I-Knew-My-Men-Wouldn't-Kill-You-When-I-Sent-Them-To-Kill-You angle is absurd. But... philosophically in line with Wenwu's life, I guess.
The look on Xialing's face when Wenwu announces "My son is home!" and she gets ignored speaks volumes as to how she ends up at the end of the film.
The way that Marvel Studios revised The Mandarin for Iron Man 3... then re-revised him for Shang-Chi is how things should work. A course correction, so to speak. And even though you know that it couldn't have been the plan from the start, Marvel has a way of making it seem like it was planned from the start. Reclaiming him as a character and abolishing the stereotype once and for all (at least in the MCU) is why the movies are actually preferable to me over the comics now-a-days. Next up? We can only hope that The Ancient One gets a similar course correction (though I'm never going to be sad for what Tilda Swinton brought to the character, because that was pretty great).
Boy... CGI water simulation sure has come a long way, hasn't it? In other news... Wenwu has s photographic memory?
The fact that the great Sir Ben Kingsley is open to reprising Trevor Slattery... again... is pretty spectacular. Of course, the fact that he took on the role in the first place is pretty spectacular.
Morris. =sigh= Now I want a Morris plushie! Except when I looked that up, I see that the one they cam up with isn't that good. Boooo!
Since they never actually call Razorfist "Razorfist" in the movie... spray-painting it on his car is a hilarious way to get the message to non-Marvel-comic-book-fan viewers.
They established that Katy knows how to drive the heck out of a car (or bus!) from the very start. Her drive through the magical forest at least gives her something to do.
And now Michele Yeoh. At last. I'd watch her in absolutely anything, and her role in Shang-Chi is just one more cool role she's blessed us with.
Ta Lo is yet another in a long line of mystical city tropes that have been in comics since forever. And then they doubled-down with a magical gate holding back a great evil. Something we've also been seeing since forever. I mean... this is the entire reason for the Amazons (of Wonder Woman fame) to exist in DC Comics.
Amazing how Shang-Chi and Xialing's mom knew their clothing sizes in advance of when they would finally arrive at Ta Lo given that she died when they were children.
It's a training montage! Now... I legit thought that time was going to pass differently in Ta Lo's dimension so Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Katy could learn their new skills. They'd have months to practice while only a day passes in the Real World. But that is apparently not the case? Katy specifically says that she just learned how to shoot a bow a day earlier.
Wenwu was sure stupid to think that just because he put his criminal life behind him that he could leave his family defenseless from his past. I mean... that is next-level stupid, isn't it? Sure seems that way.
Nice and convenient how all the people battling it out are color-coded! Except... not really necessary. The background fighting is not something that is really of any consequence. But, hey, at least it looks like good background fighting. I keep flashing back to the absolutely hilariously stupid background Jedi in ANY of the "Jedi battle scenes" in the prequel movies and LOL.
The fight between Shang-Chi and dear-old dad was kinda silly. The day that Shaun spent learning how to fight can't even remotely compare to ten lifetimes of fighting! I mean, yeah, this is illustrated by how brief it is... but that was a one-punch fight if there ever was one.
For the life of me, I don't understand how Wenwu thought that his wife had come back to life when he saw her dead body. And how did she make it back to Ta Lo when she died on earth? Why would he think she was held in captivity by her own people? Just because he heard her voice, LOGIC gets tossed out the window? I mean... wow.
Awwww! The little soul-eaters (ooh... I hope JK Rowling doesn't hear me calling them that!) are so cute!
The Great Protector Dragon sure is cool. And he munches down soul-eaters like candy! Sweet!
Awwww! I want a Chinese lion plushie! Meh. I won't even search. I don't want to be disappointed again.
Getting The Breath of Life dropped into you by The Great Protector gives Shang-Chi the power to battle dad! EPIC!
Trevor being Trevor is what makes me so glad that he's back. They didn't even try to make him become something he's not. Avoiding giving him a massive hero moment like what they would do in a lesser film was smart. Playing dead? Now THAT'S TREVOR SLATTERY!
The Dweller in Darkness is one bad-ass mega-villain! Kudos to Marvel Studios on putting together THAT piece of awesomeness! And while he didn't get much use in the film, it's still kinda cool that they didn't cheap out on it, but made it worthy of the rest of the film.
The special effects, in general, are jaw-dropping amazing. So many shots done so well. But it's the thought that went into the fundamental way that things work which makes the movie better than most other studios could have made it. Just the way the ten rings move... the inventive way they can be used from scene to scene... it's what makes Shang-Chi's powers so nuanced and interesting compared to them just being able to fire energy blasts or whatever.
Good Guy / Bad Guy synergy in the end. How nice. Have to wonder if some of the warriors from The Ten Rings Organization are staying in Ta Lo?
SOUL-SUCKERS! That's how they avoided getting sued by JK Rowling!
Okay. Wong showing up again is kinda the icing on the cake, isn't it? And then we get a mid-credits scene where Bruce Banner and Captain Marvel show up. Gotta keep building those interconnected links between all the Marvel Studios properties! Except... what happened to Professor Hulk? I thought that the fusion of The Hulk and Bruce Banner was permanent? Anyway... can't help but wonder where the homing signal of the ten rings is leading in future stories?
Now... as much as I love the idea of Xialing becoming the new leader of The Ten Rings Organization and what cool stuff might come of it (a team-up with Sharon Carter, The Power Broker, perhaps?)... it doesn't really make much sense. Between her mom, her aunt, and what she learned in Ta Lo, the idea that she would turn all evil at the end is kinda out of the blue. It's like she learned something... then evolved... then fell backwards even further back than she started at the beginning of the movie?
And that's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Yet another fantastic addition to the MCU stable of movies. By pandemic metrics, it was a success... managing to nab a $400 million+ box office against a budget of an estimated $200 million. Ant-Man and The Wasp got $620 million pre-pandemic, and we're still getting films in that franchise, so the idea that a new Shang-Chi solo movie is being planned is not out of the blue. Hopefully they figure out something interesting to do with him now that they don't have an origin story crutch to lean on.